Verik reveled in the most stunning aspect yet discovered of his complant: Chronovision.
Investigating the technological limits of Earth-based humans, led him to the subject of time travel.
Verika discovered it first: “They traveled through time.”
“Impossible.” Verik turned his search to it.
“That’s the word I had in mind. But consider the Mirians. Earth II*. We don’t know how it was created. Let alone Vulcan II.” [*Miri's homeworld]
Sure enough – if he could believe the data – there existed numerous accounts of time travel, creating temporal incidents, anomalies, alternate timelines… even temporal warfare, cold and hot…
Until it suddenly stopped. Chronos, a transtemporal entity or consciousness of some sort, emerged from odds of probability, and halted time travel altogether. Somehow it had the power to do so, and that power was independent of human factors. It was indeed impossible – now.
He wondered if the reach of Chronos extended from the true beginning to the end of time and space, or covered a limited span around the current era. What must it be like, Verik wondered – to transcend the barriers of linear progression?… to exist across time, inhabiting every point at once, from the perspective of a singular consciousness?
The logic of the Chronos Edict, a natural and inevitable event, impressed itself upon him. If time travel could rewrite history, it would eventually eliminate itself. Chronos seemed to be the result – and kept it so – though it raised a great fuss among circles of physicists, when it was announced, as well as in the Federation’s Department of Temporal Affairs, who thought it would put them out of a job.
Temporal observation remained possible. They could see through time – they just couldn’t alter history. Still, that was a heady power to have, Verik realized, albeit a bit intimidated by it all the same. To step through the temporal veil… He could witness his own birth. He could ‘meet’ his ancestors; see the history of his people, the formation of his world, the universe itself! He could read Pitesto, as the great poet penned ink to page; he could walk with the kings of Baizan; watch Voltega deliver his famous speech in The Valley of the Vulcans…
He might finally answer the age-old mystery of how Vulcan II came to exist.
Verika suggested lunch before the appointment. Verik thought it a waste of time, even though he had not eaten since the day before, aboard the Orion ship, but she insisted, and they found a small diner, completely empty.
“Plomeek seed spread on honey-mustard bread, with fried carrot crepes, grape pie for dessert, and Kaferian spiced-apple Zinfandel.”
“Excellent choices, miss. And you, sir?”
Verik deliberated. “A, umm… uhh… no, I don’t want that…”
Across from him, Verika played with a salt shaker, cupped in ink-black fingers on one side, snow-white on the other. “For mother’s sake, Verik. It’s food.”
He glared at her. Staring into her dichromatic face, half-black, half-white, should have given him a headache by now, but hadn’t. Yet. “We’re wasting time.”
“We have to eat...”
He browsed the menu again. The waiter, a hologram, who could wait until the next century, said after a moment, “Would you like me to come back?”
“A, uh… one of those… rolls…” Verik pointed. “And…” Lengthy pause. “Water.”
The waiter disappeared (literally). Verika was shaking her head.
“Okay. That… “ Verik made a gesture. “Uh-uh.”
“Black… white… Do something.”
“Something else. Be my sister. We didn’t come to dress up. This isn’t fun and games.”
“Well, just so you know, while you took all month to check out the menu, brother, I’ve made an appointment at the Earth Institute of Planetary Sciences.”
“You did that?”
“They want to know more.”
“They said they’ll examine the data and let us know.”
Verik tried to relax. He rapped knuckles on the table. “Could this really work?”
“I do hope so, brother.”
“Please remove that costume.”
Verika made an irritated noise, but returned to normal. “Why does it bother you?”
“I don’t like different. I don’t like change.”
“Embrace the new, brother.”
“I prefer new ways of looking at the old. What is, not ‘what-if’.”
“I think it goes deeper. You’ve been learning all these new and scientific things since we were kids, all part of this new technological era affecting our worlds. But you don’t want to use it for progress, for creating something new. You want to preserve the old and traditional ways.”
“As I’ve said.”
“But if you use it to hold us back, keep us down, stuck in the past… That’s oppression, brother.”
“And you’d leap headfirst into this new future, all these radical ideas. You’d sow chaos into our world.”
“No, Verik. Order would emerge. Even if it seems like organized chaos. Culture is pain and suffering, brother. That’s life. But it can be fun… enjoyable… and that makes it worth having, as we build something new. Your old was new, once. And my new will be old someday. But we keep... moving... forward...”
Verik followed her gaze without turning his head. A man had entered behind him: Vulcan, and, he could tell, handsome enough to catch his sister’s attention.
Shush. I can look.
The Vulcan looked back. Realizing she was staring, Verika feigned interest in the condiments on the table.
He walked up to them. “Pardon me. I am curious…”
“I’m Verika.” She grinned. “My brother, Verik.”
“Eppes, child of Mudfen, child of Snupk. You are Vulcans?”
“Well… not exactly… But not Cheronian either, if you mean…”
For some reason, Verik didn’t like him – and not because of his sister. Don’t say too much, he warned her.
Did Eppes hear that? He paused, mouth open, said, “Forgive my intrusion,” turned and left.
It was Verika’s turn to glare. Verik shrugged, baffled and innocent. What did I say?
“We’ve reviewed your case and examined the data.”
They met via complant. The man facing him was bald, brown-skinned, in a white waistcoat . Silver studs dotted his face in diamond shapes, on forehead, chin, cheekbones, below large brown eyes. Verik did not think to query their significance.
His name was Kaiitiaurattlbong. Even if I spoke fluent Earth Standard*, Verik thought, I’m not certain I could pronounce that. (*He speculated on the side why they didn’t just say English: Earth’s common language.)
They agreed that Verik would talk to the head of the Action Recommendation Committee. Though Verika claimed him better at such things, Verik wasn’t stupid: She didn’t take part.
“Mr. Verik, we find indications of a potential danger to your twin-world system.”
“As I knew. Except it’s not potential. I believe it’s definite.”
The brown man hesitated. “I’m afraid we can’t help you.”
Verik tightened, and waited for the why. “Vulcan II does not meet the optimal profile,” Kaiitiaurattlbong said. “To qualify for official recommendation, requires that a number of factors be in place.”
Anger sparked in Verik; he quickly snuffed it. When my planet blows up, will that qualify? he wanted to say. “I… I don’t understand. You’re telling me… you would let two planets… populated planets, a civilization… perish…?”
His emotional state wasn’t lost on his host, who clasped his hands together. “The problem, sir, is your planets are at war. You are not an authorized representative of your people. Nor is your companion… your sister. They don’t even know you’re here. You took it on yourselves to seek help, which is admirable, but… our society has a directive of noninterference.”
“Yes. Your prime directive.”
“Given the political state of your worlds, our involvement could be seen as influence – interference with the natural order. Your governments have not sought our help. It would be better if you were united and attempted to solve this problem yourselves, together.”
“I… we’ve tried. They won’t listen. Unification…” Not enough people wanted unification, badly enough to do whatever they had to do, to achieve it. “Unification could take more time than we have. If we don’t act soon, it could be too late. Please, sir: Is there anything you can do?”
“We’ll gather more data. I’ve sent your case for higher review on personal recommendation based on the urgency of the timeframe. The Committee may do something, but they may not. Many worlds are in need of help.”
“Doesn’t the Prime Directive apply only to Starfleet?”
“It applies wherever it applies, Mr. Verik.”
“I mean… isn’t it a directive for Starfleet only, to obey and follow?”
“Maybe it used to be; I’m not in Starfleet, I don’t know, sir. It’s a general rule today.”
“Who’s your highest authority? I’ll take this to President Pike if I must.”
“If that is your wish.”
Verik’s frustration gnawed at him. He felt desperate. “What’s the point of having all this power, all the things you can do, if you don’t use it?”
“Mr. Verik, I know how you must feel. I’ve heard this before. All we should have to do… is act… and solve the problem. It sounds like counter-logic, but it never works out that simply. That is why they made the Prime Directive. It protects others from our interference; it protects us. Not long ago, people dared to think as you suggest. ‘We can bend the rules, here and there. We’ll make exceptions, for good reasons.’ We’ve suffered a costly, life-consuming conflict as a result. A state of civil war. Earth once led the Federation. It is an affiliate member now, in the loosest sense. In some places, they’re still fighting. It’s a hard lesson. The road to hell is paved with good intent. To resist temptation… We can’t act only because we can.”
“But you acted for the preservation of your planet, did you not? This Prime Directive didn’t interfere with that. Thank you, Mr. … Kaiitiaurattlbong.”
He severed the link and took deep, relaxing breaths. He didn’t know why he felt so angry, other than at the unfairness of it.
Complant, he thought. Are you aware of my situation? The impending destruction of Vulcan II?
Can anyone help us? – who won’t say no…?
*Projected outcomes indicate several possibilities. Further information is required.*
What do you mean?
The complant wanted specified conditions. For example, some imperialist races had technology and resources to stabilize Vulcan II, but might conquer, enslave and/or deport the inhabitants. The sought-after assistance might be gained for a price, possibly in the form of trade; supplying weapons to the Verikans in conflict could tip the balance and end it. Other potential providers did not have restrictions like the Prime Directive; it could be as straightforward as asking for help.
One of the offered possibilities echoed the brown man’s words: Taking direct, personal responsibility, and attempt to unite his people… or, bypassing that, utilize available resources to effect salvation – although based on data, the odds overruled success.
He shared this with Verika through their personal link. She must not have turned it off: His intrusion caught her off-guard, and for a moment, he saw the man from the restaurant. He was on her, or she was on him, sharing their bodies and their thoughts, seeing each other through the eyes of the other, while they—
Verik snapped off the link, shocked. He was trying to save their worlds, while she—
Verik. It was her. Did you just—
I won’t talk to you right now.
“Thank you for coming.” He had contacted the induction officer from earlier, when they arrived at the Waypoint 5 habitat. “I’d like to apologize for my reaction… about God…”
The chair-bound Walden Wehrle dismissed it, as before. “Not my business, like I said.”
Verik sat on the wide stone edge of the water fountain. He avoided getting soaked by water droplets with a plain command, to not get him wet.
Reality didn’t always allow such control. It was a chaotic system. What the man at the Science Institute said, had struck nerves: Your planets are at war. What could he do about it?
“We used to worship a god,” Verik said. “Not like so many cultures, where they start with pantheons, different gods, and evolve to a monotheistic system. We had one, in the beginning.
“My sister and I were named after our planets. It’s supposed to be symbolic. We represent them. It’s after the legend, a creation myth: Verik and Verika, twin brother and sister, the first man and first woman. They had no home, so they asked God, ‘Please, give us a home.’ They performed rituals of supplication to impress him, creating beautiful things… stars, animals, plants, water. God, impressed by their offerings, gave each their own land, to call home. Our worlds.
“But then they fought. They argued. God told them to stop or he’d take it away. And now we’re fighting… our planets are at war… and we’ll be destroyed, if we don’t do something.”
“You have options. Try them,” Wehrle said, shifting in his chair. “Ask the ones you can ask. What can happen? They’ll say no. Or they’ll say yes. Just don’t give up.” He looked around. “Where is your sister?”
“Right here.” Verika appeared beside Verik, sitting with him on the fountain’s edge (fully clothed). “That was beautiful, brother.” She took his hand in hers, offering her most heartfelt look of empathy. He didn’t refuse her. I’m sorry, she thought as he let her in.
We need to stick together, Verika. I can’t do this alone.
I know. We will, brother. “Mr. Wehrle.” She tipped her head to him.
“If you don’t mind,” Wehrle said, “I don’t know why you hate God, but—“
Their eyes flicked at him; an instinctive reaction. It was still a tender subject.
“—or who you ‘met’ that is supposedly God, whom I’ve never met face to face yet, on account of he’s too damn bright, brighter than the sun… But anyway, I’m going to tell you: Prayer does work wonders. There’s a God up there, yessir, you believe it; a good god, of love and grace… and you may not believe it, but miracles happen. I’ve seen it.”
Verik and Verika regarded him coldly. They looked at each other, then Wehrle.
“God is a myth, Mr. Wehrle.”
“An imaginary friend for adults… who haven’t quite learned to grow up yet.”
“Izzat so.” Wehrle looked at his lap, stroking his mustache. “Heh. That’s funny.”
“Would you like us to share it with you?” Verika said. “Our experience with God?”
“If there truly was a God, as you say,” Verik said, “there wouldn’t be so much war and death and pain. Our planets wouldn’t be at war, or facing destruction.”
“Does God tell you to fight?” Wehrle said.
Verik and Verika sat silent, their spat still raw in their minds.
“If God wanted your worlds destroyed, would you be here trying to save them?”
“Your argument presumes the existence of the God you claim,” Verik said.
“You don’t have to believe what I believe,” Wehrle said, “but I’ll tell you, whatever happened to you… that wasn’t God. People did that. May not look like you, may not look like me, but… people. Tell you this too: Get your heads right, kids. You are going to do some growing up, speaking of growing up, if you want to save home.”